Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Review

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I’ve long waged a personal war against overweight, over-sized digital SLRs. As the effective digital film frame is mostly stamp-sized why on earth does the body and lens of every camera maker’s DSLR have to be so bulky?

When the Micro Four Thirds cameras began to appear I wept tears of joy. At last, a totally digital approach to quality digital capture! And in a small form factor.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1.jpg

Now Panasonic does a swerve away from its pioneering model, the SLR-style DMC-GH1, and delivers to our eager hands their response to Olympus’ first Micro Four Thirds model, the compact PEN E-P1.

To be precise, the GF1 is not a DSLR, there’s no optical finder, not even an eyepiece style one atop the camera — but there is an optional one that fits into the accessory shoe, tilting to suit your viewing needs.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Features

The GF1 goes one step further than the PEN E-P1 in having a retractable flash cell; the Live MOS sensor can capture 12.1 megapixels; the rear 7.6cm LCD screen has 460,000 pixel resolution; internal body optical image stabilisation means you enjoy steady shooting with any lens; seven preset effects — Expressive, Retro, etc; face detection of up to six faces; auto dust reduction; stills and HD video shooting.

Lenses

The camera uses G Micro System lenses and any interchangeable optic that complies with the Four Thirds standard, via an optional mount adaptor.

The review camera was supplied with an f3.5-5.6/14-45mm and an f1.7/20mm pancake lens. The latter is a compact joy and would suit the needs of anyone who wants to travel in compact mode, adding only 23mm to the body thickness.

ISO Tests

ISO 100 f5.6 1:20 sec.jpg
Taken at ISO 100 — f5.6 and 1/20 second.

ISO 400 f5.6 1:100.jpg
Shot at ISO 400 — f5.6 and 1/100 second. Still clean, no colour shifty, no noise.

ISO 1600 f7.1 1:250 sec.jpg
This shot was taken at ISO 1600 with f7.1 and 1/250 second shutter speed. Remarkably clean, no noise, no artefacts. A useable setting IMHO.

ISO 3200 f8 1:500 sec.jpg
Top setting of ISO 3200 at f8 and 1/500 second. At last, we’ve run out of steam, with noise and colour artefacts evident.

Mantra view night 5 16.1.10.jpg
Taken at ISO 400, with f5.1 aperture and a one second exposure. A little hand wobble (!) helped the picture.

Image Size

The maximum still image size is 4000×3000 pixels, enough to make a 34x25cm print.

In movies, two choices of capture: Motion JPEG with a screen size of 1280×720 pixels right down to 320×240 pixels at 30 fps. Or, AVCH Lite and 1280 x720 pixels and 60 fps at three quality levels. Audio is mono, recorded via a tiny cell next to the mode dial and replayed from a slightly larger speaker nearby. There’s no provision for an external microphone — and more’s the pity.

Startup Time

The GF1 is quick off the mark, able to capture the first shot a fraction of a second after startup with follow-ons about a quarter second apart.

Graffiti 2 16.1.10.jpg

Comment

I did some traveling with the GF1, so used only the 14-45mm zoom … this being the best approach to a variety of subjects.

I found the camera a delight to use, with the controls close to fingers all the time. The screen was sharp and bright, with auto focusing easy to control and rapid capture always to hand.

Eureka views 3 19.1.10.jpg

Still image quality was stunning, with a noticeable ability to catch fully-colour saturated pictures, even when the sun was behind clouds.

Although the picky will turn up their noses (eyes?) at the HD video resolution of only 1280×720 pixels, the on screen result is pretty good. For me, the ability to shoot excellent stills and HD video with one camera, was a deal clincher. Added to this is the terrific extra that auto focus could be called up when needed or manual focus resorted to in tricky situations.

Why you would buy a GF1: stills and HGD video in one camera; interchangeable lens capability.
Why you wouldn’t: you don’t want the size or complexity of a digital SLR.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF-1.jpg

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Specs

Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multiple and centre-weighted metering, spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 22.5mm diameter Live MOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/4000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/160 second.
Memory: SD/SDHC cards. Movies are best recorded onto Class 6 cards or better.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4000×3000, 4000×2672, 4000×2248, 2992×2992, 2816×2112, 2816×1880, 2816×1584, 2112×2112, 2048×1536, 2048×1360, 1920×1080, 1504×1504.
Viewfinders: 7.6cm LCD (460,000 pixels).
File Formats: RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG, Motion JPEG, AVCHD Lite.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200.
Flash Modes: Auto, auto/red eye reduction, forced on and off, slow sync, slow sync/red eye reduction.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, Mini HDMI, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 119x71x36.3 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 285 g (body only). With f1/7/20mm lens, card and battery: 442 g.
Price: Get a price on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 with Lumix G f3.5-5.6/14-45mm or Lumix G f1.7/20mm lens.

“Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 12.1MP Micro Four-Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Lens” (Panasonic)

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Author Rating
4

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • digiphone June 13, 2013 03:47 pm

    Video specification is very good, up 640x480/30fps mainstream high regulation, can record videos very smooth, which is quite rare in the world's 200 million pixel camera phone but supports VGA video examples. Horizontal camera interface, the menu layout.

  • Greg July 25, 2010 01:05 am

    I sold my Rebel XS with two lenses to help buy a GFI (now with the EVF and 3 lenses total for a nice rounded out setup). I could not be happier. It takes better pics than my XS (which is admittedly a low end DSLR), it seems to perform better (start up time, time between shots, etc) and is much smaller.
    I am not a pro or do I have aspirations to be one. I am a hobbyist who wants to get better and play with manual settings. I also want something smaller. The m4/3 standard is perfect for me. I will never say 4/3 is better than a DSLR!! But I will say it is better FOR ME. :)

    With the 14-45 or the 20 lens and no EVF this thing can come off as a point and shoot which tends to disarm folks when taking pics compared to a DSLR (most tend to take you seriously as a photog at that point and they too get serious about getting their pic taken). But armed with my Crumpler bag, multiple lenses and the EVF, I can be taken seriously in a photography class. :)

    The video can be hacked to a higher quality with firmware tool out now (I recommend it). Not as good as at GH1, but damn good.

  • Denver Photographer June 17, 2010 07:07 am

    I really want to see how this camera feels in your hands, it looks great, and the images look great as well!

  • nzrob June 5, 2010 05:06 pm

    Such an appealing camera - beautiful pictures.

    What a pity it doesn't have a plain optical viewfinder. I hate having to put in glasses to look at an LCD and the digital viewfinders just don't cut it.

    With an optical viewfinder, it would be to me, what the Olympus OM-2 was all of those years ago!

  • Jeremy June 4, 2010 10:41 pm

    I would like to correct myself in my previous comment. I meant some lenses not most lenses are made by Leica.

  • Jeremy June 4, 2010 10:36 pm

    I am still not convinced that micro 4/3 is an ideal solution for many photographers. It seem sthat the only real advantage is size and weight over SLRs, whereas there is a clear sacrifice on the size of the prints that can be produced and the levels of noise at smaller sensor sizes. Yes there is less noise than expected on ISO 1600 and 3200 but it is visible at 1600, although I agree there are no visible artifacts which is good. I really dislike the digital viewfinder, especially in low light situations and the fact that lenses are so narrow skews the effects of wide apertures, which is possibly only avoided on the pancake lens as it is so flat.

    The 2x crop is a big issue for me. I have an APS-C sensor camera (Canon 40d), and the only times I feel grateful about having a smaller sensor is when I'm wanting long zooms, for example lunar photgraphy, or when shooting macro, but when it comes to landscape photography, unless one invests in an ultrawide angle, you do see some limitations, especially when trying to play with perspective.

    There are some good points too obvioulsy, apart from the size. I mean most lenses are produced by Leica and I have to admit many images I have seen from the camera are really sharp. Some people might feel uncomfortable with walking around with a conspicuous camera, either for embarrassment reasons (which I hope does not apply to most photographers, as it would be quite sad if one was ashamed of such a thing), for safety reasons (some areas are not the best to be carrying clearly expensive stuff) or for convenience (weight around the neck, or interfering with other activities, such as going for a restaurant meal while touring around).

    One last point about size is stability. The weight of a camera can be used to one's advantage as it helps keep it stable, especially if requiring slightly longer exposures at longer focal lengths, but if size and weight are really such a big issue, I believe that the Sony camera that was reviewed some weeks ago would be quite tempting, especially as it has an APS-C sensor and wider lenses, combined with compact size.

  • caroline June 4, 2010 01:54 am

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 vs Canon G11? I'm a professional looking for a small backup and something to take climbing that shoots RAW.....

  • Frank Streicher May 26, 2010 10:10 pm

    Two months ago I sold all my Nikon gear (except for a few older manual lenses) and bought one of these puppies (with 20mm and 14-40) . I have not regretted it for a moment. The viewfinder is rubbish but will (have to) do when the sun is out. This is the perfect camera to grab when on goes walkabout. and the image quality is superb. (example: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=58281&id=1060033147&l=098799fac0 )

    And my old and beloved Nikon lenses? A $30 adaptor from eBay did the trick . No more DSLR for me.

  • Mike Long May 26, 2010 01:00 am

    Thank you for your research, I really appreciate your work. Keep this kind of posts comming. Sincerely, Mike

  • jabber May 25, 2010 06:33 am

    I'm about to pull the trigger on this beauty, with the 20/1.7. But I'm torn about the optional viewfinder--what do those of you think who have it? Do you find yourselves using it often, or not? I can swallow the price if I feel like it's going to help me take better pictures.

  • Steve May 24, 2010 10:13 am

    The GF1 is a champ. I have the 20mm pancake lens and I don't think I'l ever want another for it(but it's nice knowing I have the option).

    My DSLR is conspicuous. I stick out. Sometimes that's nice.
    My GF1 is a secret. No one notices me when I'm out in public.

    Size gives you an optical viewfinder via mirror/prism. It doesn't give you magical technology that makes your pictures better.

    If you're curious about the camera, you should be. If for some reason you are threatened by a piece of technology(and it sounds like some of you are) take a moment to read the article and then investigate other articles. The GF1 has some wonderful write-ups, such as...

    http://craigmod.com/journal/gf1-fieldtest/

    That was one I read a few months ago when I was on the fence. There are many other good ones.

    Is this camera perfect? Nothing is! If you know what you're shooting then this gem is great tool when appropriate. I will never regret ordering mine because for the most part it's a pleasure to use, gives me surprising quality and just feels good.

    I love it when people think I'm using a point and shoot, and I know I have a serious photography tool in my hands.

  • Chris May 24, 2010 06:23 am

    @Marlene:
    I haven't had any issues yet. It uses a pretty interesting dust reduction system with a membrane over the sensor that vibrates to shake dust off.

  • Thomas May 24, 2010 04:59 am

    "As the effective digital film frame is mostly stamp-sized why on earth does the body and lens of every camera maker’s DSLR have to be so bulky?"

    Because with that size comes quality. The body is big so that it can house the complex electronics necessary to process half a dozen 18-megapixel images taken in one second, it's that big so that, ergonomically, it's simple to change any setting while blind, it's that big so that it can be rugged and durable. The lenses are that "bulky" so that you can have an actual wide aperture, so that you can stop down to f8 without horrible diffraction, so that you can have high-quality optical glass to snap a great photo.

    If you don't like lugging around an SLR all the time, that's totally understandable, but I'd think that a website like Digital Photography School would understand the benefits of an SLR.

  • Chris May 24, 2010 02:47 am

    I have one, I love it. I use it much more often than my Nikon DSLR.

  • Marlene Hielema May 24, 2010 01:59 am

    Did you have any problems with sensor dust, seeing that the sensor is fully exposed and very close to the front, due to the thin profile of the camera?

  • Blaze May 24, 2010 01:14 am

    Why you would buy a GF1: stills and HGD video in one camera; interchangeable lens capability.
    Why you wouldn’t: you don’t want the size or complexity of a digital SLR

    This makes no sense..

  • Christopher Masiello May 24, 2010 01:13 am

    Barrie,
    How is the video?
    I'm looking to ditch my point and shoot and my video camera. Is this the solution?
    Thanks,
    Chris

  • Koert May 24, 2010 12:43 am

    you have "long waged a personal war against overweight, over-sized digital SLRs" ?
    I hope you're not trying to convert any of us DSLR users because thats when I stopped reading.
    Is there a reason you first have to denigrate users of other systems before telling something about your favorite tool?
    How about trying to convert me with arguments?

    .......relurks..........

  • Rob May 24, 2010 12:12 am

    internal body optical image stabilisation means you enjoy steady shooting with any lens
    WRONG - the GF1 has no internal body stabilisation - no Panasonc MFT camera does.